Marie Claire magazine and Cover Letters

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 - career transition, cover letter, Job Application, job hunting

Cover Letters

Creative Commons License photo credit: Harley Qinn

Writing a Cover Letter is easy, and its even easier if you learn a few lessons from some top copywriters and editors who work for one of the worlds best selling magazines, Marie Claire.

Simply, writing a Cover Letter or selling a magazine is about two things: attention grabbing headlines, and fulfilment of promise with content – it couldn’t be simpler

The simple formula for writing a Cover Letter is about…..

  • A headline to say why you are writing
  • A first paragraph which hooks the reader
  • A second paragraph which further engages them by showing your successfully applied experienced skills against at least the top three job skill requirements. If you want to show more, then insert a third paragraph
  • A closing paragraph which calls for action

But some people get confused, and some people get worried. This is mostly about the how (see above formula), while others worry about breaking letter conventions, and hence spend half the Cover Letter explaining why they are writing. Neither type of applicant will be getting a call back, as they missed the only opportunity to engage with the reader

If you are one of these wondering how to write a Cover Letter, then I suggest that you take a walk down to the local newsagents or magazine seller, and simply read the headlines of the magazine section. Forget your favourite pieces on changing a transaxle, painting a house, buying bedsheets, or improving your garden. Concentrate on any magazine which is monthly and costs over £5/$5 per edition.

The easiest to find of these are those that sell to 20/30 something women, advising them about lifestyle, clothes and men – normally led by the infamous Marie Claire. Now don’t get worried. I am not going to ask you to actually pick up one of these magazines, just look at the front cover. This is a competitive market, and you can tell that by the glossy photographs, high prices and the fact that the edition on the shelf is in actual fact the one for two months time.

Now what strikes you about the magazine, looking at it from a far? Visually it is engaging, and contains lots of glossy white contrasted by three other colours. Those are action colours, such as red; quality colours such as gold; or seasonal colours such as bronze – blue, if it is used, only appears in the summer and for the swimsuit edition. If you are a visual artiste or a graphic designer, then colour in your CV/resume and Cover Letter is a possibility, but note that there are only three colours at maximum.

The rest of us job applicants don’t have the colour option, but now what do we all read? The first three words of the maybe six key issues focus on either solving pain or gaining pleasure/advantage! If you have a 30second look at the front cover of Marie Claire, and then had to write about what was inside the magazine for 10minutes, it would be an easy task as the headline is:

  1. easily found
  2. engaging
  3. sets the expectation of what is inside

The headline in your Cover Letter is easily found through conventional letter structure; it says why you are writing. Your engaging hook has to be found in paragraph1, so how do you address the second two issues? Concentrate on engagement and setting the readers expectations, which simply is about reading the job advert and finding out what are the five or six key skills the job requires. So, to write an engaging paragraph, all we have to do is repeat back to the employer the key skills and talents they listed – and add to that expectation with backed-up experience. You can’t hit more then the top three in paragraph1, so take those and simply repeat back, after inserting an action word or assurance word (ie – experienced, proven results, etc) after the jobs title.

In paragraph2 and possibly paragraph3, take each skill set required and translate the requirement against your skill set. For instance, they want and experienced operator or a piece of machinery, or a skilled and proven sales account manager, show them that backed up by (in order of priority to the reader): value of experience in £/$; years of experience; company name/brand. When Marie Claire write an article, they follow the same principles – unless its an article on Gucci, the brand comes last.

In summary, a Cover Letter is about engagement and follow through, so make sure you engage and like a great magazine, follow through on your headline promises. Use these principles in writing your own Cover Letter, and you may not get the man you want – but you will get the job you want.

Good Luck!

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One Response to “Marie Claire magazine and Cover Letters”

  1. John Says:

    I truly appreciate these great points you have posted as far as cover letters. I cant point out enough just how important a impacting cover letter truly, often cases much more than the CV!

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